In my bio I tell of a trip I made in 1999 to the Corbett Tiger Reserve in northern India. The result of that trip was a change in my focus away from academia and toward children’s writing and illustrating. That included a course in writing plus lots of work on my watercolors. Although that is not all that I did in the ten years before I got back to the tiger book idea, by 2011 I was ready to return to that part of northern India and the cross-border region in Nepal known as the terai to work on my book.
In early 2011, I spent 22 days riding in a jeep among Tharu villages and tiger reserves in the terai of western Nepal. The terai is that flat area at the base of the Himalayan mountains that forms the border region between Nepal and India. The terai, a wet and once hot forested area on both sides of the border, is the place where the best-known of Nepal’s tiger reserves are located. The WWF has established a Terai Arc Landscape project that supported linking together the reserves on both sides of the border.
My visit to far western Nepal centered around the Bardia Reserve and, to a lesser extent, the Shuklaphanta Reserve, and the indigenous, very colorful Rana Tharu people.
I spent that time with the Rana Tharu and other Tharu people collecting stories, taking photos, and getting to know the area, its geography, people – and its problems. Of the children, two of them stood out that would become the actual characters in my book. Here is Usha by the jeep.
The other child that caught my eye right from when I first saw her outside the Bardia Reserve is Kriti. She is the character Anjali in the book. Here is Kriti in 2011.
Returning to the USA, I worked from photos to make images that could be used in the book, and developing a story line. That resulted in a first version which, in 2012, I shared with the children on a return trip to Nepal. With input from my friend (and muse) Tanya Sousa, and with the support of Green Writers Press, I finished the story as it now appears.